Saturday, July 24, 2010
Occasionally, a recipe enters my life for which I am supremely grateful.
Sometimes it's because the recipe, exactly as it's written, is perfection, such as Marcella Hazan's roasted chicken with two lemons, or Baking Illustrated's chocolate chip cookies. These are two recipes I will make my whole life.
Other recipes I love because they teach me a technique which I can then adapt to suit my whim. The raspberry buttermilk cake I've written about many a time is one such recipe. It's a good recipe--not necessarily a great one--but a good one that has simple ingredients, makes the right-sized cake for our household, and can take almost any kind of fruit, no matter what the season. The crostata I made recently is another such recipe.
I discovered it years ago and originally made it as written, with apples. But then I got tired of apples, so I moved on to pears. Pears gave way to pears-and-cranberries, which lead to straight-up cranberry crostata, and this week, I made it with blueberries.
I love the dough for two reasons: it comes together rapidly, and since it's a crostata, it's free-form. Maybe because I'm the daughter of an artist, or maybe because I lack the technical skills, I don't like rolling things out into perfect circles and tucking them tidily into pans. I like keeping it a little earthy and rustic. I'm OK with crust that's oblong instead of round, and 1/8" in some places and 1/4" in others. No one will ever accuse me of being a perfectionist, which is fine with me, because while I kind of admire perfectionists, as they seem so disciplined and focused while I'm haphazard and bedraggled, with flour on my face and blueberry juice on my t-shirt, I sometimes feel a little sorry for them too. There's something wonderful about embracing and not judging the messy but delicious results of your hard work.
I've found you can add nearly anything to the filling and even wing the amount of fruit, as long as you don't add too much. I've gotten overzealous with piling the fruit too high before and it's resulted in a runny crostata. Not only does this lead to a soggy crust, but it makes the pan a hassle to clean.
This time, I got it just right with the blueberries. I'm not sure how many I used. Maybe a couple of cups? I tossed them with a little sugar, lemon juice and zest, and a dash of almond extract. Simple, delicious, and summery.
I hope you try this recipe, using whatever fruit strikes your fancy. I don't think you'll be disappointed; after all, it's practically perfect.